On September 9, the House Education and Labor Committee began work on its part of the reconciliation package that would make historic investments in American families, students, and the workforce. The legislation passed on a party line vote (28-22) and will be considered by the full House of Representatives in the coming weeks.
Among the new policies, the House Education and Labor committee calls for investing an additional
As we enter September, we are just weeks away from AACTE’s Day on the Hill, the Association’s premiere advocacy event. Participation in the event is critical to helping advance AACTE’s legislative priorities and highlighting the importance of teacher preparation programs. If you have not participated in Day on the Hill, or if you need a refresher, you may be wondering what attendees will be advocating for during their meetings with Members of Congress and congressional staffers. The AACTE team has posted a variety of Washington Week resources on the to help guide participants.
In many cases, you will be familiar with the issues: the importance of TEACH Grants, which are critical to helping students enter the teaching profession while helping to address shortages in hard-to-staff fields and schools; Teacher Quality Partnerships (TQP), which helps strengthen the teacher pipeline; and a variety of other bills that will help make sure our nation’s classrooms are staffed with profession-ready, diverse group of educators.
While it is helpful to review these materials ahead of Day on the Hill sessions, please know that we will discuss the political landscape and AACTE’s legislative priorities before meeting with members of congress to help you become more comfortable with advocacy. And there will be several other panels to help you understand why advocacy is important and how you can have successful meetings.
If you haven’t already, I hope you will plan to join us for our Day on the Hill. To register, please visit AACTE’s website.
AACTE’s annual Day on the Hill, the association’s premiere advocacy event, is scheduled for September 21-23. It is a unique opportunity to engage with your Members of Congress about the critical work you do. But some may wonder, “What do I get out of participating?”
First and foremost, you can explain to policymakers the importance of the teaching profession and why it is important to invest in teacher preparation programs to help address the teacher shortage and diversify the profession. Even before the pandemic, the teacher shortage was a critical issue for our nation. Studies and news reports indicate that COVID will make the problem more acute. Fortunately, President Biden has proposed historic funding increases for programs AACTE has long supported, like the Teacher Quality Partnerships, and doubling of the TEACH Grants, which are critical to training student to teach in high needs schools or fields. Your voice is critical to helping this legislation pass.
The nation’s newspapers, websites, and blogs are filled with discussions about what policies Congress should address next. Currently, it seems like all eyes are on Afghanistan; yesterday was all about investing in the nation’s infrastructure; tomorrow the discussion may be on President Biden’s American Families Plan. The president’s proposal calls for historic investments in our nation’s youth, families, and economic future, including a call to invest $9 billion in teacher preparation programs. But it is unclear whether Congress will support the proposal, let alone the $9 billion in long-overdue investments in teacher preparation.
AACTE’s virtual Day on the Hill is scheduled for September 21-23. As we prepare for AACTE’s premiere advocacy event, some may wonder, “What legislation should we prioritize?” The simplest answer is whatever you are most passionate about.
The nation is facing a teacher shortage. We are all familiar with the statistics: there were an estimated 100,000 classrooms in 2018 staffed by instructors who did not complete some type of educator preparation program; despite increased need for PK-12 teachers—and growing enrollment in higher education—the number of students completing bachelor’s degrees in education has been declining over the last two decades; in a recent survey, 27% of teachers said they were considering leaving their jobs, retiring early, or taking a leave of absence due to COVID-19.
However, there are legislative proposals that seek to address these issues and more.
The past year and a half have been a challenge. Everyone’s lives have been disrupted and we have had to adapt, adjust, and endure like never before, especially within the educator preparation community. However, there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel.
There is good news. For example, President Biden proposed the biggest increase in funding for the Department of Education and teacher preparation programs in history. Specifically, he called for increasing the Department’s budget by more than $29 billion, or 41%, including an increase of $9 billion for teacher preparation programs.
This week, the House of Representatives passed an omnibus appropriations bill, which included the funding for the Department of Education. The omnibus bill included seven spending bills; generally, the House and Senate prefer to pass the 12 appropriations bills, which largely fund the federal government, individually. However, a congested legislative calendar caused this course of action.
The omnibus bill proposes a 41% increase for the Department of Education, an unprecedented boast in spending. It also recommends significantly increasing the funding for many of the programs AACTE supports.
The Senate has not started its work on its appropriations bills and it is unclear if senators will support the funding increases provided for by the House. The annual spending bills must be signed into law by September 30, the end of the fiscal year. However, because the process is far behind schedule, Congress will likely pass a continuing resolution before then, which will fund the government at current levels (another option is to pass neither the appropriations bill nor a continuing resolution and allow the government to shut down, but that is unappealing to most members of congress).
Registration for AACTE’s second virtual Day on the Hill is now open. Day on the Hill is the Association’s premiere advocacy event and provides AACTE members with the opportunity to engage directly with their Members of Congress about the importance of teacher preparation and related legislation. Advocacy training sessions will take place September 21-22, and virtual congressional visits will be held September 23.
Earlier this year, AACTE reconstituted the Higher Education Task Force. The task force, which was previously led by AACTE, will share information about the policy work underway in the teacher preparation world with our higher education colleagues and inform Congress and other key officials about important developments related to the field. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the change of administrations and other factors, the task force was dormant for a short time. But AACTE’s colleagues eagerly accepted our invitation to rejoin.
Task force participants are from the major associations of higher education, whose members are presidents of institutions of higher education. Members include the American Council on Education (ACE), American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), Association of American Universities (AAU), Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU), American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU), Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) and UNCF.
AACTE will close its offices tomorrow in recognition of Juneteenth, which honors the day when Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, to enforce the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. Until that day, June 19, 1865, Black men, women, and children in Texas remained enslaved, despite the provisions of the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth, as named by the newly freed citizens, is celebrated annually on June 19. Congress voted this week to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.
AACTE staff pauses its work to reflect on the violence, including murder, that our Black, Latinx, Native American, Asian-American Pacific-Islander, and Transgendered populations are particularly experiencing, in addition to the long history of violence against these groups of people. AACTE condemns, in the strongest terms, this violence and invites all its colleagues to work together to create a society in which no one should fear for their lives based on the color of their skin or gender identity.
Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation, endorsed by AACTE—the Rural STEM Education Research Act (HR 210.) The legislation supports research and development to increase access to STEM education opportunities in rural schools and to provide teachers with the resources they need to teach more effectively.
The bill also directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop a prize competition to advance research and development of creative technologies for expanded broadband access. This bill further provides for assessments of Federal investments in rural STEM education to be conducted by the National Academies and the Government Accountability Office. The bipartisan legislation was introduced by House Science Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) and passed the House with bipartisan support. It is unclear if the Senate will approve the bill.
President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) in March, which includes $122 billion for the ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) Fund. The ARP ESSER funds are intended to help state educational agencies and school districts safely reopen and address the impact of COVID-19 on the nation’s students. AACTE has developed the Educating the Future, Today toolkit to help members navigate conversations with state or local education leaders, encouraging them to use ESSER funds to staff classrooms with teacher candidates.
These funds provide a unique opportunity for school districts and educator preparation programs to address the teacher pipeline. As the U.S. Department of Education’s noted in its COVID-19 Handbook, Volume 2: Roadmap to Reopening Safely and Meeting All Students’ Needs, ARP ESSER funds can be used to staff classrooms with teacher candidates, thereby providing them with practical experience while helping alleviate the challenges teachers are encountering with the transition back to in person teaching.
To effectively amplify the voice of members to policy makers to better help them understand what is happening in the field and offer sound policy recommendations, AACTE partners with other organizations to highlight the importance of certain issues.
For example, AACTE is a member of the Committee for Education Funding (CEF). CEF was founded in 1969 with the goal of achieving adequate federal financial support for our nation’s educational system. The coalition is a voluntary, nonprofit, and nonpartisan group. AACTE is one of more than 100 member organizations that represent the full spectrum of education—early childhood education, elementary and secondary education, higher education, adult and career education, and educational enhancements such as libraries and museums. CEF’s current campaign is “5 Cents Makes Sense,” which calls for 5 cents of every federal dollar to be spent on education. The campaign’s official hashtag is #5Cents4EdFunding.
Through AACTE’s conferences, meetings, surveys, and even informal conversations, AACTE staff members stay well informed about the successes and challenges of your educator preparation programs (EPPs). The government relations team is particularly attuned to the challenges where the federal government can play an important role in contributing to solutions and is in regular touch with members of congress and their staffers. AACTE provides input into legislative proposals, offering feedback as to why a provision may or may not be effective and providing information from you about current trends—including the impact of the transition to remote teaching because of COVID-19, ongoing racial injustice, declining enrollment in EPPs, the cost of college, and financial challenges future educators will face.
AACTE is an amplifying voice between you, members who are doing the important work in the field, and policy makers, who need to understand what is happening in the field to offer sound policy recommendations. Recently, President Biden announced the American Families Plan, which includes an unprecedented $9 billion to help address our nation’s teacher shortage. The plan calls for, among other things, doubling the annual amount of TEACH grants from $4,000 to $8,000 per year; $2.8 billion for year-long, paid teacher residency programs and Grow Your Own programs; $400 million for teacher preparation at minority-serving institutions (MSIs); $900 million for the preparation of new special educators; $1.6 billion for educators to obtain additional certifications in high-demand fields such as special education and bilingual education; and $2 billion to support the development of teachers as leaders and high-quality mentorship programs for new teachers and teachers of color.
Since the Supreme Court overturned the Voting Rights Act in 2013, we have seen several states pass legislation that makes it more difficult for certain populations to register to vote and/or cast their ballot. Many of these bills disproportionately impact communities of color and/or low-income voters. This effort has intensified in 2021.
According to one count, as of March 24, legislators have introduced 361 bills with restrictive provisions in 47 states. The various pieces of legislation relate to making voter registration more onerous, allowing local elections officials purge voter rolls, limiting early, in-person voting, and/or tightening voter identification requirements, among other things (there are a handful of states that are trying to make it easier for those of voting age to legally register and cast their ballots).